Aleppo Pepper…right next to the salt

Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo Pepper

Aleppo pepper has crept into my cooking over the years and has become as much a staple as salt (overstatement — close to salt) (salt is THE most necessary seasoning condiment).

But consider: aleppo can be thought of as a hot pepper, but it’s not that hot. For me, it spikes the food not heats it. It gives it a LIFT. Wakes it up. Use more and you can get heat. But it’s a subtle heat…it’s a sleepy heat…it’s a heat that feels tame and feisty, too. The flavor is smoky and deep. Dare I say: perfect?

What do I use it on? Aleppo can jump into almost anything except the most delicate and I leave it out of desserts.

Making a ricotta filling for ravioli? A little aleppo gives it some pep. (You know how ricotta can be. Creamy, but needs salt…and aleppo).

ravioli

ravioli

Roasting some asparagus? A little aleppo wakes them up.

roasting asparagus

roasting asparagus

Aleppo turns meats into soulful mouthfuls…

roasted lamb with fennel

roasted lamb with fennel

Tomato Sauce loves a little aleppo…

sun-dried tom sauce

Seafood and aleppo go out on dates all the time…

clams oreganata

clams oreganata

Savory Breads just love that little punch of aleppo…

tomato & olive baguette

tomato & olive baguette

Lasagna embraces a small shake of aleppo…

lasagna

lasagna

Frittata’s say yippee when aleppo visits….

peppers frittata

peppers frittata

And don’t forget pizza! What more can I say?

pizza

pizza

Get some! You’ll soon figure out how much you’d like for whatever dish you want to give a little nudge to – or a lot. I always find it at Penzeys Spices, or if you have a Savory Spice Shop near you, I know they carry it.

Enjoy the heat this winter! 🙂

 

it’s time for butternut squash ravioli

Oh, yeah.

We made them in class tonight and all of us cooks in the kitchen flew around the dining room on an autumn breeze (even tho in Nashville it’s been averaging a sunny 80 degrees in the afternoons).

No matter. We whipped up this elixir of creamy filling in delicate pasta and bathed it in parsley-mint-walnut pesto. We couldn’t believe our tongues. Palates lighting up with sparks of tasty joy.

Join our journey. Recipe at end.

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli-making

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

butternut squash ravioli boiling (just 3 minutes)

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

parsley-mint-walnut pesto with some pasta water mixed in

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

butternut squash ravioli with parsley-mint-walnut pesto

Fresh Butternut Squash Ravioli w Parsley-Walnut Pesto

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash

1 cup ricotta

½ cup grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano)

1/2  teaspoon of ground nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

For the Sauce:

2 cups fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves

1 garlic clove, peeled, rough chopped

1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated cheese

Make the dough: Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, and shape into a mound. Create a “well” in the mound and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and most or all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.

Make the filling: Rinse the squash and dry. Cut into quarters and spoon out the seeds. Place cut-side down on foil-lined sheet pan or casserole pan. Add about 1/2 -inch of water. Roast for about 40-45 minutes until flesh is tender. Allow to cool, then scoop out the squash into a medium mixing bowl. Mash the squash with a fork and add the cheeses, nutmeg. Combine well. Season with salt & pepper.

Make the ravioli: Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the next-to-the-last number on the machine. Dust the sheet with flour in between every couple of numbers to keep it from sticking in the machine.

Lay the sheet on a table. Place scant ½-tablespoons of filling in row on the bottom half of the sheet, about an inch apart. Fold the top half over the bottom half. Press all the edges closed to seal well. Cut in between to make the individual ravioli. Place the finished ravioli on a flour-dusted sheet and repeat with the rest of the dough.

Make the Sauce: Add the herbs, garlic, and walnuts to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to your pasta serving bowl.

Cook the ravioli: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Salt water. Drop in the ravioli and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Add a few spoonfuls  of pasta water to loosen and turn it from a paste to a sauce. Combine with ravioli. Sprinkle grated cheese on top.

Cooking Class on the Italian-French Border

 

IMG_3263

Well, actually, we were in Nashville.  But the menu was both French and Italian: fresh ravioli stuffed with ricotta-gorgonzola-arugula in a pomodoro crudo sauce, coq au vin, and roasted zucchini flecked with bite-sized lemon pieces (peel and all).

The local Jr. League Transfer Chapter came by for the class and dinner for their dining club night.  A terrific bunch of cooks! They were meeting as a pals-get-together, but they were all strangers to me. By the end of the evening they adopted me as an honorary member. Then the limoncello was poured. (Well, no one was interested in espresso!)

chicken sauteed for coq au vin

chicken sauteed for coq au vin

mushrooms, shallots, carrots for coq au vin

mushrooms, shallots, carrots for coq au vin

coq au vin

coq au vin

tomato crudo sauce

tomato crudo sauce

ravioli

ravioli